Flash back to my freshman year of high school. I was madly in love with a guy who had no idea I existed, and each night I swiped open my iPod touch to Taylor Swift’s newest album falling asleep to songs of unrequited love and fairytale romance. I felt as though Taylor sang the words of my diary. Whatever I was feeling, she understood me. I didn’t have to explain anything to her, she was my friend, she understood my heartache and she had song that fit almost every situation I encountered.
Then last year, something tragic happened. In the aftermath of Taylor’s relationship with Harry Styles (which I am still convinced was a publicity stunt, but that’s a story for another day) I began to resent her. I began to realize that Taylor had a nasty habit of turning herself into the victim and I started to resent her for her good girl attitude and refusal to admit that she was ever the one at fault in her relationships. I felt like my friend had been lying to me, like our entire relationship had been based upon me believing that she was someone that she was not. With each appearance, new song, and performance, I found my dislike for her grow more and more.
The downward spiral in my love affair with Taylor happened at the same time that the entire Internet seemed to be turning against her, so it made it even easier for my disdain to grow. My rage was fueled when she performed at the VMA’s last year and made a blatant jab at Styles (reciting the “I miss you” line in her song We Are Never Getting back Together in a clear mockery of Styles’ accent). I couldn’t believe her immaturity, that an artist who I had once loved so much could be so cruel. For the months that followed I allowed my rage to spiral, blatantly spewing my disdain for Swift at anyone who would listen.
But then, something happened- this summer on my way to work, I heard Shake It Off on the radio. I tried to pretend I hated it, I tried to resist, but every time I heard the first few notes come through my speakers, I was transported back to my freshman year, dancing around my room to Taylor Swift, loving her with absolutely no shame. I remembered how her music always made me feel like someone “got it”, like even in the peak of my high school angst, someone understood, and what’s more, didn’t belittle me for the things that I was feeling. I also remembered listening to Taylor when I was getting ready for school, or to get pumped up before a performance and feeling empowered. I began to think that maybe I had been too hard on Taylor, and I was forced to reluctantly admit that not only did I like her new song, but also that I might have been wrong about her.
With this admittance I began to realize some things about Swift. Though she is far from perfect, there is more to her than meets the eye. For instance, the media is constantly bombarding us with information about Swift’s latest conquest, but how often is it that they address the massive amounts of charity that she engages in? In addition to her work with countless charities, Swift also frequently takes time to interact with her fans. Whether it’s something as small as leaving a comment on an fan’s Instagram photo, or as large as throwing a private concerts for a six year old fan with leukemia, she has shown time and time again that she truly cares about the people who love her music. (MTV) She also topped People’s list of most charitable celebrities in 2013. So while it is easy to see Taylor solely as a serial dater, it is important to recognize that her boyfriends are not her number one priority.
Taylor is also a marketing genius. She recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal on the future of the music industry, but much of the advice she gave is relevant across the board. She talks about the importance of knowing your worth, a concept that is illustrated in her recent removal of her music from the popular streaming site, Spotify. When asked why she made this decision, Swift stood her ground and defended her belief in knowing your worth. “I think there should be an inherent value placed on art... I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.” She also added that people still have access to her music “if they get it on iTunes” (TIME). In addition to the value of her music, Swift also knows the value of social currency. She is incredibly active on a myriad of social networks including Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, all of which feel incredibly personal. It is clear that Swift runs the accounts herself rather than leaving the task to a social media team like many other celebrities. All of this is clearly paying off for her- her album 1989 sold 1.287 million copies in the first week, the largest sales week for an album since Eminem’ s The Eminem Show in 2002 (Billboard). Many things can be said about Taylor Swift, but you cannot deny the fact that she knows what she’s doing.
I will be the first person to admit that Taylor Swift is far from perfect. She has a tendency to play the victim and give her audiences an unrealistic expectation of what to expect in a relationship, but she is also a human. Her songs, much like my own personal diary, are a reflection of the things that have hurt her and the things that she still dares to dream about, so of course they are raw and messy and at times unrealistic. But Taylor is also not the villain that the media attempts to paint her as. She is not some hormonal twentysomething with a victim complex. She is a philanthropist, she is a brilliant performer and businesswoman, and she is a strong woman who is doing remarkable things. So no, I am not ashamed to admit that I love Taylor Swift. And you shouldn’t be either.